U.S. prosecutors pull encrypted messages from phones seized in Cohen raids


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors investigating U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen have extracted more than 700 pages of messages sent using encrypted programs like WhatsApp and Signal on phones seized from Cohen, according to a court filing on Friday.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen leaves his hotel in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

The prosecutors also said they had reconstructed 16 pages from the contents of a shredding machine taken during raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in April. The prosecutors said in their filing in Manhattan federal court that they had turned the materials over to Cohen’s lawyers, who are expected to review them by June 25.

Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible crimes related to his business dealings. The probe stems in part from a referral by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether there was any coordination between associates of Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion, and Russia has denied interference.

Cohen has not been criminally charged, but a source familiar with the investigation told Reuters in April that the federal prosecutors are investigating him for possible bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations connected with a payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and matters concerning foreign support of Trump’s campaign.

Roughly 3.7 million files were seized in the April raids and are being reviewed to determine which ones may be subject to attorney-client privilege. At a May 30 court hearing, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood gave Cohen’s and Trump’s lawyers until Friday to finish reviewing the documents they had received from prosecutors.

At the time, prosecutors had not yet provided Cohen’s lawyers with reconstructed shredded documents or the encrypted messages.

Prosecutors said in Friday’s filing that they still had not given Cohen’s team the contents of one Blackberry seized in the raids, which they had not been able to unlock.

Lawyers for Cohen and Trump could not immediately be reached for comment.

Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels in separate civil litigation against Cohen and Trump, on Friday tweeted that the encrypted messages and reconstructed documents “could pose a huge problem for Mr. Cohen and ultimately Mr. Trump.”

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex with Trump in 2006 and that Cohen paid her $130,000 to keep the encounter secret shortly before his election. Cohen has admitted making the payment, but Trump has denied the encounter with Daniels.

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

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